Speak the language of business, say data experts

Successfully rolling out a data strategy across an organisation requires experts to “speak the language of business” and prioritise work and resources wisely, an industry panel told the audience at Gartner’s annual Data and Analytics Summit.

Fostering cultural change within an organisation to leverage the benefits of data requires a multifaceted approach based on collaboration and resourcing, the panel argued on Monday.

Data experts need to rally the various arms of an organisation and unite them behind a data strategy, they said.

Breaking out of silos and bringing various parts of an organisation together to implement a data strategy is the key to promoting cultural change, Marek Rucinski, Deputy Commissioner of the Smarter Data Program, ATO told the conference.

Transforming an organisation’s culture to allow a data strategy to flourish requires a three-pronged, triangulated approach, he said, based on bringing together three key parts of an organisation.

Organisations should ensure that the business, IT and data and analytics parts of the business are intertwined.

“It’s a triangular relationship between business, data and analytics and IT. It should be self-reinforcing and there should be push and pull between those three sides,” he said.

Speaking the language of business

This means ensuring that the data and analytics team fit into the “broader organisational schema,” and that data experts immerse themselves and speak the language of the business when promoting benefits.

Greg Terrill , Chief Data Officer, Department of Environment and Energy told the audience it was important to manage change fatigue among employees.

“This means helping them understand what data can do for them in terms of business, rather than using the language of data and asking people to learn it. It’s speaking a language people already speak and feeding value into that, rather than pushing for people to learn something new,” he said.

Demonstrating this benefits for those affected by the activity will allow an organisation to do much more advanced analytics, he said.

Prioritising a data strategy

Fast-tracking the scaling of a data strategy amidst competing organisational demands requires ruthless prioritisation, experts argued.

Alan Lowthorpe, general manager of Advanced Analytics at Wesfarmers argued that the implementation and scaling phase of a data and analytics strategy is the biggest challenge.

He says it is through a “rigorous” approach to prioritisation that an organisation can roll-out and expand a data strategy, by asking themselves whether other ambitions can “fall down the path” if they have less business value or feasibility.

Leveraging data across an organisation also requires businesses to see data and analytics as the centre of a business strategy rather than something to “align with it”.

“There’s a need for data and analytics to be interwoven within an organisation. It’s about trying to build a muscle, and as soon as we start to increase our strength we start to build our muscle memory,” he said.

This means aligning the benefits of a data and analytics strategy with broad business objectives, he says.

“It’s really about – in the initial stages – aligning those business priorities with data and analytics,” he said.

According to Mr Rucinski, this means promoting the benefits of data and analytics to broader business and organisational processes.

“People often don’t (know that) they can realise much more tailored and precise decisions through data,” he said.

Resourcing data work

Finding dedicated resources to support data and analytics work is also essential to support the rollout of a strategy, according to a senior data adviser.

Fiona Tweedie, Data Strategy Adviser at the University of Melbourne said getting dedicated resourcing to support policy and quality is crucial to a successful data strategy.

Directing resources to quality data work will help resource and support a data strategy, she says.

“Hopefully as data governance and data quality improve some of that basic data quality and munging work will go away and that will be one thing that comes off people’s plates,” she said.

“Organising yourself so you’re not just piling one more thing on top of everyone’s day to day demands, and actually having the organisational support to carve out some time in people’s days to value that sort of work is really important.”

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